Stories from Skopje





Ohrid Travel Guide

Skopje, North Macedonia – A Disastrous Airbnb and a Very Unusual City

Our bus journey from Niš to Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, took us through more farmland filled with sunflowers and corn as far as the eye could see. Although the sunflowers were still in bud, in a few weeks it will be a stunning sight.

The border crossing was easy and uneventful, and we were stamped out of Serbia and into North Macedonia very efficiently.

We arrived in Skopje quite late and went straight to our Airbnb, located in the heart of the pedestrianised area of the city. The drama with the apartment started before we even got in the door. After climbing four flights of steep stairs, we discovered that the key safe, which supposedly contained the key to the apartment, was broken and inaccessible.

While we both have Australian and French SIMs with roaming, we don’t use them when traveling. They are for staying connected to various institutions in those respective countries and for emergencies. We travel to too many places, and it’s too expensive and the data rates are too high to use these numbers, so we buy local SIMs when we arrive, which works much better.

So there we were, hot, tired, hungry, and unable to get into the apartment. I started rummaging in my pack looking for my phone to see if I could connect to one of my international numbers to contact the apartment’s owner, while AP started searching for Wi-Fi. Luckily, we could pick up the apartment’s Wi-Fi from the foyer and we already had the Wi-Fi code, so we could connect. Once connected, we discovered a message from the host saying the key was under the mat!

Airbnb hosts really need to understand that not everyone is connected all the time—it’s the reason why the arrivals section in the Airbnb app is available offline.

Anyway, we finally got into the apartment and it was awful. It was dirty—I don’t think the shower had ever been properly cleaned, the fridge was moldy, and the cook top didn’t work. When I messaged the host with my concerns, he was flippant at best, so I did something I’ve never done before and lodged a complaint with Airbnb, who were excellent. To cut a long story short, the owner got very cross and told us to leave first thing in the morning and he would give us a full refund. Fine, we said, and we found another delightful apartment in a lovely part of town and moved on early the next day.

The new apartment was close to an excellent cafe and supermarket and not far from the center of town and the old town, so we were very happy with our new location.

Skopje is a very unusual city. In the town centre and the main square, there are a plethora of enormous statues, acres of marble paving, and huge buildings built in a neoclassical style with columns and statues. It’s all very odd, and strangely, I really liked it.

It was very hot when we were in Skopje, with temperatures hovering around 40°C, but we did have a day or so when it dipped below 35°C, and we went out to explore the centre and the old town. The old town is centered around a traditional bazaar which once upon a time would have  sold all types of goods, food, spices, etc. Now it mostly sells tourist tat and Turkish-style food (think pides and gyros). We had a very ordinary lunch in a small restaurant in the bazaar and decided not to eat out again while in Skopje.

The bazaar did have an excellent fruit and vegetable market and some quite good spice stalls, but they alone were not worth walking down there.

We were in Skopje for 10 days and enjoyed our time there. We got some work done, liked our apartment, and were able to live fairly normally. After 10 days, it was back to the bus station and time to move on to Greece and Thessaloniki.

See you in Thessaloniki!